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  • #6615

    In reply to: Orbs of Madjourneys

    Like ships in the night, Zara and Yasmin still hadn’t met up with Xavier and Youssef at the inn. Yasmin was tired from traveling and retired to her room to catch up on some sleep, despite Zara’s hopes that they’d have a glass of wine or two and discuss whatever it was that was on Yasmins mind.  Zara decided to catch up on her game.

    The next quirk was “unleash your hidden rudeness” which gave Zara pause to consider how hidden her rudeness actually was.  But wait, it was the avatar Zara, not herself. Or was it?   Zara rearranged the pillows and settled herself on the bed.

    Zara found her game self in the bustling streets of a medieval market town, visually an improvement on the previous game level of the mines, which pleased her, with many colourful characters and intriguing alleyways and street market vendors.

    Madieval market

    She quickly forgot what her quest was and set off wandering around the scene.  Each alley led to a little square and each square had gaily coloured carts of wares for sale, and an abundance of grinning jesters and jugglers. Although tempted to linger and join the onlookers jeering and goading the jugglers and artistes that she encountered, Zara continued her ramble around the scene.

    She came to a gathering outside an old market hall, where two particularly raucous jesters were trying to tempt the onlookers into partaking of what appeared to be cups of tea.  Zara wondered what the joke was and why nobody in the crowd was willing to try.  She inched closer, attracting the attention of the odd grinning fellow in the orange head piece.

    Jesters with cups


    “Come hither, ye fine wench in thy uncomely scant garments, I know what thou seekest! Pray, sit thee down beside me and partake of my remedy.”

    “Who, me?” asked Zara, looking behind her to make sure he wasn’t talking to someone else.

    “Thoust in dire need of my elixir, come ye hither!”

    Somewhat reluctantly Zara stepped towards the odd figure who was offering to hand her a cup.  She considered the inadvisability of drinking something that everyone else was refusing, but what the hell, she took the cup and saucer off him and took a hesitant sip.

    The crowd roared with laughter and there was much mirthful thigh slapping when Zara spit the foul tasting concoction all over the jesters shoes.

    “Believe me dame,” quoth the Jester, “I perceive proffered ware is worse by ten in the hundred than that which is sought. But I pray ye, tell me thy quest.”

    “My quest is none of your business, and your tea sucks, mister,” Zara replied. “But I like the cup.”

    Pushing past the still laughing onlookers and clutching the cup, Zara spotted a tavern on the opposite side of the square and made her way towards it.   A tankard of ale was what she needed to get rid of the foul taste lingering in her mouth.

    jesters cup tavern


    The inside of the tavern was as much a madhouse as the streets outside it. What was everyone laughing at? Zara found a place to sit on a bench beside a long wooden table. She sat patiently waiting to be served, trying to eavesdrop to decipher the cause of such merriment, but the snatches of conversation made no sense to her. The jollity was contagious, and before long Zara was laughing along with the others.  A strange child sat down on the opposite bench (she seemed familiar somehow) and Zara couldn’t help remarking, “You lot are as mad as a box of frogs, are you all on drugs or something?” which provoked further hoots of laughter, thigh slapping and table thumping.

    tavern girl


    “Ye be an ungodly rude maid, and ye’ll not get a tankard of ale while thoust leavest thy cup of elixir untasted yet,” the child said with a smirk.

    “And you are an impertinent child,” Zara replied, considering the potential benefits of drinking the remainder of the concoction if it would hasten the arrival of the tankard of ale she was now craving.  She gritted her teeth and picked up the cup.

    But the design on the cup had changed, and now bore a strange resemblance to Xavier.  Not only that, the cup was calling her name in Xavier’s voice, and the table thumping got louder.

    Xavi cup


    Zara!” Xavier was knocking on her bedroom door. “Zara!  We’re going for a beer in the local tavern, are you coming?”

    “Xavi!”  Zara snapped back to reality, “Yes! I’m bloody parched.”


    In reply to: Orbs of Madjourneys

    When Xavier woke up, the sun was already shining, its rays darting in pulsating waves throughout the land, blinding him. The room was already heating up, making the air difficult to breathe.

    He’d heard the maid rummaging in the neighbouring rooms for some time now, which had roused him from sleep. He couldn’t recall seeing any “DO NOT DISTURB” sign on the doorknob, so staying in bed was only delaying the inevitable barging in of the lady who was now vacuuming vigorously in the corridor.

    Feeling a bit dull from the restless sleep, he quickly rose from the bed and put on his clothes.

    Once out of his room, he smiled at the cleaning lady (who seemed to be the same as the cooking lady), who harumphed back as a sort of greeting. Arriving in the kitchen, he wondered whether it was probably too late for breakfast —until he noticed the figure of the owner, who was quietly watching him through half-closed eyes in her rocking chair.

    Idle should have left some bread, butter and jam to eat if you’re hungry. It’s too late for bacon and sausages. You can help yourself with tea or coffee, there’s a fresh pot on the kitchen counter.”

    “Thanks M’am.” He answered, startled by the unexpected appearance.

    “No need. Finly didn’t wake you up, did she? She doesn’t like when people mess up her schedule.”

    “Not at all, it was fine.” he lied politely, helping himself to some tea. He wasn’t sure buttered bread was enough reward to suffer a long, awkward conversation, given that the lady (Mater, she insisted he’s called him) wasn’t giving him any sign of wanting to leave.

    “It shouldn’t be long until your friends come back from the airport. Your other friend, the big lad, he went for a walk around. Idle seems to have sold him a visit to our Gems & Rocks boutique down Main avenue.” She tittered. “Sounds grand when we say it —that’s just the only main road, but it helps with tourists bookings. And Betsy will probably tire him down quickly. She tends to get too excited when she gets clients down there; most of her business she does online now.”

    Xavier was done with his tea, and looking for an exit strategy, but she finally seemed to pick up on the signals.

    “… As I probably do; look at me wearing you down. Anyway, we have some preparing to do for the Carts & whatnot festival.”

    When she was gone, Xavier’s attention was attracted by a small persistent ticking noise followed by some cracking.

    It was on the front porch.

    A young girl in her thirteens, hoodie on despite the heat, and prune coloured pants, was sitting on the bench reading.

    She told him without raising her head from her book. “It’s Aunt Idle’s new pet bird. It’s quite a character.”


    “The noise, it’s from the bird. It’s been cracking nuts for the past twenty minutes. Hence the noise. And yes, it’s annoying as hell.”

    She rose from the bench. “Your bear friend will be back quick I’m certain; it’s just a small boutique with some nice crystals, but mostly cheap orgonite new-agey stuff. Betsy only swears by that, protection for electromagnetic waves and stuff she says, but look around… we are probably got more at risk to be hit by Martian waves or solar coronal mass ejections that by the ones from the telecom tower nearby.”

    Xavier didn’t know what to say, so he nodded and smiled. He felt a bit out of his element. When he looked around, the girl had already disappeared.

    Now alone, he sat on the empty bench, stretched and yawned while trying to relax. It was so different from the anonymity in the city: less people here, but everything and everyone very tightly knit together, although they all seemed to irk and chafe at the thought.

    The flapping of wings startled him.

    “Hellooo.” The red parrot had landed on the backrest of the bench and dropped shells from a freshly cracked nut which rolled onto the ground.

    Xavier didn’t think to respond; like with AL, sometimes he’d found using polite filler words was only projecting human traits to something unable to respond back, and would just muddle the prompt quality.

    “So ruuuude.” The parrot nicked his earlobe gently.

    “Ouch! Sorry! No need to become aggressive!”

    “You arrrre one to talk. Rouge is on Yooour forehead.”

    Xavier looked surprised at the bird in disbelief. Did the bird talk about the mirror test? “What sort of smart creature are you now?”

    “Call meee Rose. Pretty Giiirl acceptable.”

    Xavier smiled. The bird seemed quite fascinating all of a sudden.
    It was strange, but the bird seemed left completely free to roam about; it gave him an idea.

    “Rose, Pretty Girl, do you know some nice places around you’d like to show me?”

    “Of couuurse. Foôllow Pretty Girl.”


    In reply to: Orbs of Madjourneys

    Xavier had woken up in the middle of the night that felt surprisingly alive bursting with a quiet symphony of sounds from nocturnal creatures and nearby nature, painted on a canvas of eerie spacious silence.

    It often took him a while to get accustomed to any new place, and it was not uncommon for him to have his mind racing in the middle of the night. Generally Brytta had a soothing presence and that often managed to nudge him back to sleep, otherwise, he would simply wake up until the train of thoughts had left the station.

    It was beginning of the afternoon in Berlin; Brytta would be in a middle of a shift, so he recorded a little message for her to find when she would get back to her phone. It was funny to think they’d met thanks to Yasmin and Zara, at the time the three girls were members of the same photography club, which was called ‘Focusgroupfocus’ or something similar…
    With that done, he’d turned around for something to do but there wasn’t much in the room to explore or to distract him sufficiently. Not even a book in the nightstand drawer. The decoration itself had a mesmerising nature, but after a while it didn’t help with the racing thoughts.

    He was tempted to check in the game — there was something satisfactory in finishing a quest that left his monkey brain satiated for a while, so he gave in and logged back in.


    Completing the quest didn’t take him too long this time. The main difficulty initially was to find the portal from where his avatar had landed. It was a strange carousel of blue storks that span into different dimensions one could open with the proper incantation.

    As usual, stating the quirk was the key to the location, and the carousel portal propelled him right away to Midnight town, which was clearly a ghost town in more ways than one. Interestingly, he was chatting on the side with Glimmer, who’d run into new adventures of her own while continuing to ask him what was up, and as soon as he’d reached Midnight town, all communication channels suddenly went dark. He’d laughed to himself thinking how frustrated Glimmer would have been about that. But maybe the game took care of sending her AI-generated messages simulating his presence. Despite the disturbing thought of having an AI generated clone of himself, he almost hoped for it (he’d probably signed the consent for this without realising), so that he wouldn’t have to do a tedious recap about all what she’d missed.

    Once he arrived in the town, the adventure followed a predictable pattern. The clues were also rather simple to follow.

    The townspeople are all frozen in time, stuck in their daily routines and unable to move on. Your mission is to find the missing piece of continuity, a small hourglass that will set time back in motion and allow the townspeople to move forward.

    The clue to finding the hourglass lies within a discarded pocket watch that can be found in the mayor’s office. You must unscrew the back and retrieve a hidden key. The key will unlock a secret compartment in the town clock tower, where the hourglass is kept.

    Be careful as you search for the hourglass, as the town is not as abandoned as it seems. Spectral figures roam the streets, and strange whispers can be heard in the wind. You may also encounter a mysterious old man who seems to know more about the town’s secrets than he lets on.

    Evading the ghosts and spectres wasn’t too difficult once you got the hang of it. The old man however had been quite an elusive figure to find, but he was clearly the highlight of the whole adventure; he had been hiding in plain sight since the beginning of the adventure. One of the blue storks in the town that he’d thought had come with him through the portal was in actuality not a bird at all.

    While he was focused on finishing the quest, the interaction with the hermit didn’t seem very helpful. Was he really from the game construct? When it was time to complete the quest and turn the hourglass to set the town back in motion, and resume continuity, some of his words came back to Xavier.

    “The town isn’t what it seems. Recognise this precious moment where everything is still and you can realise it for the illusion that it is, a projection of your busy mind. When motion resumes, you will need to keep your mind quiet. The prize in the quest is not the completion of it, but the realisation you can stop the agitation at any moment, and return to what truly matters.”

    The hermit had turned to him with clear dark eyes and asked “do you know what you are seeking in these adventures? do you know what truly matters to you?”


    When he came out of the game, his quest completed, Xavier felt the words resonate ominously.

    A buzz of the phone snapped him out of it.

    It was a message from Zara. Apparently she’d found her way back to modernity.

    [4:57] “Going to pick up Yasmin at the airport. You better sleep away the jetlag you lazy slugs, we have poultry damn plenty planned ahead – cackling bugger cooking lessons not looking forward to, but can be fun. Talk to you later. Z”

    He had the impulse to go with her, but the lack of sleep was hitting back at him now, and he thought he’d better catch some so he could manage to realign with the timezone.

    “The old man was right… that sounds like a lot of agitation coming our way…”


      “A-OUCH!” Liz shouted.

      “That’s no way to stop my powernap!” she gave a dark eye to the offender.

      Finnley was standing there, looking cockishly at Liz, “don’t mean to be rude M’am, but since you mentioned the pea-shooters that knocker uppers of old London used to wake up the workers,” she smiled excitingly “I’ve been dying to try.”

      Liz was at a loss for words.

      Finnley loaded for a second round with a selection of carefully picked peanuts.

      “Let me guess…” Liz sighed. “There’s no shortage of ammunitions.”


      In reply to: Orbs of Madjourneys

      The road was stretching endlessly and monotonously, a straight line disappearing into a nothingness of dry landscapes that reminded Youssef of the Gobi desert where he had been driving not too long ago. At regular speed, the car barely seemed to progress.

      > O Time suspend thy flight!

      Eternity. Something only nature could procure him. He loved the feeling, and compared to the more usual sand of Gobi, the red sands of Australia gave him the impression he had shifted into another reality. That and the fifteen hours flight listening to Gladys made it difficult to respond to Xavier’s loquacious self and funny jokes. After some time, his friend stopped talking and tried catching some signal to play the Game, brandishing his phone in different directions as if he was hunting ghosts with a strange device.

      It reminded him he had to accept his next quest in a ghost town. That’s all he remembered. He could do that at the Inn, when they could rest in their rooms.

      Youssef wondered if the welcome sign at the entrance of the town had seen better days. The wood the fish was made of seemed eaten by termites, but someone had painted it with silver and blue to give it a fresher look. Youssef snorted at the shocked expression on his friend’s face.

      “It looked like it died of boredom. Let’s just hope the Innside doesn’t look like a gutted fish,” Xavier said.

      An old lady showed them their rooms. She didn’t seem the talkative type, which made Youssef love her immediately with her sharp tongue and red cardigan. He rather admired her braided silver hair as it reminded him of his mother who would let him brush her hair when they lived in Norway. It was in another reality. He smiled. She saw him looking at her and her eyes narrowed like a pair of arrowslits. She seemed ready to fire. Instead she kept on ranting about an idle person not doing her only job properly. They each went to their rooms, Xavier took number 7 and Youssef picked number 5, his lucky number.

      He was glad to be able to enjoy his own room after the trip of the last few weeks. It had been for work, so it was different. But usually he liked travelling the world on his own and meet people on his way and learn from their stories. Traveling with people always meant some compromise that would always frustrate him because he wanted to go faster, or explore more tricky paths.

      The room was nicely decorated, and the scent of fresh paint made it clear it was recent. A strange black stone, which Youssef recognized as a black obsidian, has been put on a pile of paper full of doodles, beside two notebooks and pencils. The notebooks’ pages were blank, he thought of giving them to Xavier. He took the stone. It was cold to the touch and his reflection on the surface looked back at him, all wavy. The doodles on the paper looked like a map and hard to read annotations. One stood out, though which looked like a wifi password. That made him think of the Game. He entered it on his phone and that was it. Maybe it was time to go back in. But he wanted to take a shower first.

      He put his backpack and his bag on the bed and unpacked it. Amongst a pile of dirty clothes, he managed to find a t-shirt that didn’t smell too bad and a pair of shorts. He would have to use the laundry service of the hotel.

      He had missed hot showers. Once refreshed, he moved his bags on the floor and jumped on his bed and launched the Game.

      Youssef finds himself in a small ghost town in what looks like the middle of the Australian outback. The town was once thriving but now only a few stragglers remain, living in old, decrepit buildings. He’s standing in the town square, surrounded by an old post office, a saloon, and a few other ramshackle buildings.

      A message appeared on the screen.

      Quest: Your task is to find the source of the magnetic pull that attracts talkative people to you. You must find the reason behind it and break the spell, so you can continue your journey in peace.

      Youssef started to move his avatar towards the saloon when someone knocked on the door.


        “That’s all Jorid had to say?” Georges mused at the sudden philosophical quote that read:

        And doesn’t this point to something fundamentally tragic about our way of life? We live under an assumed identity, in a neurotic fairy tale world with no more reality than the Mock Turtle in Alice in Wonderland. Hypnotized by the thrill of building, we have raised the houses of our lives on sand. This world can seem marvelously convincing until death collapses the illusion and evicts us from our hiding place. What will happen to us then if we have no clue of any deeper reality? (The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying)

        “I don’t know about this Mock Turtle, but those snapping sand ones that have been lurking about do look rather nasty. We shouldn’t waste any more time.”

        Klatu opined “Klatu agrees with your female, sand turtle are lovely traps of death. Come with me now!” He intimated them to run into a sand opening he’d just made.

        “Let me guess,” Georges said, “is it the equivalent of a Zathu prison? What powerful people could Léonard possibly have rubbed the wrong way this time?”

        “Not prison.” Klatu commented “Death sentence.”

        Salomé pointed out a glowing twirl of sand shaped as an ovoid form, inside which a human form could be discerned. “That would explain why he’s not more guarded…”

        They approached carefully, expecting some extra booby trap, but nothing seemed to react to their presence, not even the moving sand egg.

        “Let me guess,” Georges said, expecting a chorus


        Klatu shushed them “Quiet stupids! Sound waves attract good turtles.”

        “Is our friend OK? How do we break the spell?” Salomé asked Klatu. “Can you help?”

        Klatu took a few minutes to inspect the shape, hopping carefully around it, and probing with soft whistling sounds.

        “Friend in stasis for now. Kept fresh for questioning… possible.”

        “Then we must hurry, how can we free him? Can I brute force this?” Georges asked, looking around for something to pierce the sand barrier and hook Léonard out of it.

        “Only if you like sushi friend.” Klatu said, raising shoulders. “No finesse these primates.”

        Klatu moved around the shape, taking some tools from his belt and making some elaborate plaits of sounds, as if trying to match the energy signature of the sand prison.

        After a first belt of soundwaves was wrapped around, it seemed as though a first layer of the spell broke, and sand rained back into the external construct they were it. But a thin layer was still there, shifting and pulsating, almost clear as glass, and sharp as a razor blade.

        “Crude encoding, but solid. Need more time.” Klatu seemed exhausted.

        Georges was getting anxious for some activity. “Houses built on sand… Well I guess Jorid didn’t find the best quote to help…”

        Salomé who was sitting cross-legged, trying for some time to connect to Léonard in his stasis, turned to Georges in disbelief. “Georges, you’re a genius!”

        “What now?”

        “Jorid gave us the last bit we needed.  Until death collapses the illusion and evicts us from our hiding place. Remember? It’s risky but that could work!”

        “Oh, I see what you’re thinking about. It’s mad, and it’s brilliant at the same time, how do we go about this?”

        “I can’t reach Léonard, but maybe the both of us can.” Salomé joined hands with Georges.

        “If he’s like anything I remember, he’d be in his mental palace, his workshop on the Duane… or in Marseille… or with Madame Jamelie…”

        “Focus, Georges!”

        “Duane it is, that’s where he did his best work.”

        “We need to focus our energy to make him appear dead to the construct. It’ll be easier if we can locate precisely where his mind wanders.” Salomé said.

        “He’ll be there, I know it. Let’s do this!”

        The two of them joined hands and melded their minds, one as always, turning into a dark mirror of the abyss, bending light unto itself, leaving the void of creation at the place where Léonard was suspended.

        Klatu looked at the scene suspiciously, but started to giggle as he saw the last layer he couldn’t open finally shatter and dissolve to the ground.

        “Little apes full of surprises,… very awful, so very awful.” he said approvingly.

        As his friends rushed to him, Léonard was on the ground, inert, but apparently alive.


        In reply to: Orbs of Madjourneys

        Youssef hadn’t changed a bit since they last met in real life. He definitely brought the bear in the bear hug he gave Xavier after Xavier had entered the soft sandal wood scented atmosphere of the Indian restaurant.

        It was like there’d seen each other the day before, and conversation naturally flew without a thought on the few years’ hiatus between their last trip.

        As they inquired about each other’s lives and events on the trip to get to Alice Springs, they ordered cheese nan, salted and mango lassi, a fish biryani and chicken tikka masala and a side thali for Youssef who was again ravenous after the jumpy ride. Soon after, the discussion turned to the road ahead.

        “How long to the hostel?” asked Youssef, his mouth full of buns.

        Xavier looked at his connected watch “It’s about 1 and half hour drive apparently. I called the number to check when to arrive, they told me to arrive before sunset… which I guess gives us 2-3 hours to visit around… I mean,” he looked at his friend “… we can also go straight there.”

        Youssef nodded. He seemed to have had already enough of interactions in the past day.

        Xavier continued “so it’s settled, we leave after we finish here. According to the landlady, it looks like Zara went off trekking, she didn’t seem too sure about Zara’s whereabouts. That would explain why we heard so little from her.”

        Youssef laughed “If they don’t know Zara, I can bet they’ll be running around searching for her in the middle of the night.”

        Xavier looked though the large window facing the street pensively. “I’m not sure I would want to get lost away from the beaten tracks here. There’s something so alien to the scale of it, and the dryness. Have you noticed we’re next to a river? I tried to have a look when I arrived, but it’s mostly dried up. And it’s supposed to be the wet season…”

        Youssef didn’t reply, and turned to the leftovers of the biryani.

        Despite the offering to top it off with gulab jamun and rose ice cream, it didn’t take too long to finish the healthy meal at the Indian restaurant. Youssef and Xavier went for the car.

        “Here, catch!” Xavier threw the keys to Youssef. He knew his friend would have liked to drive; meanwhile he’d be able to catch on some emails and work stuff. After all, he was supposed to remote work for some days.


          More developments

          Chapter 3: The Journey becomes more eggciting

          The Flovlinden Tree

          The group reaches the Flovlinden Tree, a massive linden tree in the heart of Oocrane, which is said to be sacred and is attracting crowds of pilgrims.
          They meet Olek, the old caretaker of the tree, who tells them the story of Saint Edigna. He explains how the tree is said to have magical healing properties, and how the tree is responsible for the sacred oil that the pilgrims come to collect.
          However, Olek reveals that the secret of Saint Edigna is not what it seems. Edna, an old woman who has been living far from the crowd for thousands of years, is actually Saint Edigna.
          Olek shares that Edna has been living in solitude for very long. He tells the group that if they want to learn more about the sacred tree and Edna, they must travel to her hidden home.
          The four friends were shocked to hear that Edna was still alive and wanted to meet her. They asked Olek for directions, and he gave them a map that showed the way to Edna’s remote dwelling.
          They bid farewell to Olek and set off on their journey to find Edna.

          A Run-In with Myroslava

          The group comes across a former war reporter, Myroslava, who is traveling on her own after leaving a group of journalists. She is being followed by mysterious individuals and is trying to lose them by hunting and making fire in bombed areas.
          Myroslava is frustrated and curses her lack of alcohol, wishing she could find a place to escape from her pursuers.
          The group approaches Myroslava and offers to help her. She joins forces with them and together, they set off on their journey.
          As they travel, Myroslava shares her experiences as a war reporter, and the group listens in awe. She explains how she has seen the worst of humanity, but also the best, and how it has changed her as a person.
          Myroslava and the group continue their journey, with the former reporter becoming more and more determined to shake off her pursuers and continue on her own.

          A Visit with Eusebius Kazandis’ Relatives

          The group reaches a small village where they are expected by relatives of Eusebius Kazandis, the cauldron seller that Rose has met at the Innsbruck fair.
          The relatives tell the group about Kazandis and his business, and how he has been traveling the world, selling his wares. They explain how he has become a legend in their village, and how proud they are of him.
          The group learns about Kazandis’ passion for cooking and how he uses his cauldrons to create delicious meals for his customers. They are also shown his secret recipe book, which has been passed down for generations.
          The relatives invite the group to try some of Kazandis’ famous dishes, and they are blown away by the delicious flavors.
          The group thanks the relatives for their hospitality and sets off on their journey, with a newfound appreciation for Kazandis and his love of cooking.

          A Surprising Encounter with Edna

          The group finally reaches Edna’s hidden home, a small cottage in the middle of a dense forest.
          As they approach the cottage, they are surprised to see Edna, who is actually the legendary Saint Edigna, standing outside, waiting for them.

          The four friends have finally arrived at Edna’s dwelling, where they learned about her vast knowledge of the families connected to her descendants. Edna showed them her books, and they were amazed to find that their own family was listed among her descendants. They were even more shocked to learn that they were related to President Voldomeer Zumbasky and Dumbass Voldomeer, who was said to be a distant relative and carpenter who made the President’s wooden leg. It was rumored that they shared a common ancestor, but in reality, they were possibly secret twins.

          The Secret of Dumbass Voldomeer

          The four friends were determined to find out more about Dumbass Voldomeer and his connection to their family. They learned that he lived in the small city of Duckailingtown in Dumbass, near the Rootian border. They also discovered that Dumbass Voldomeer had been enrolled to take the place of the President, who had succumbed from a mysterious swan flu virus, to which Dumbass Voldomeer was immune. As they set to Duckailingtown, they couldn’t help but wonder what other secrets and surprises lay ahead for them on this incredible journey.


          In reply to: Orbs of Madjourneys

          Youssef gave his passport and ticket to the woman at gate 11. He was followed closely by Kyle and other members of the team. The flight attendant looked at him and gave him his passport and ticket back without scanning them with her machine.

          “I’m sorry, you’re at the wrong gate. Your flight is at gate 8,” she said.

          “But I’m going to Boston. My ticket says gate 11.”

          Youssef showed his ticket to the hostess, and she pointed the destination and the gate to him. She was right.

          “Your ticket is for flight AL357 to Sydney. It’s currently boarding at gate 8. Next person please.”

          Kyle patted him on the shoulder.

          “You should have double checked your ticket, he said.”

          “What’s wrong? asked Miss Tartiflate. Why are you going to Australia?”

          “I’m not.”

          “Well, it says you are,” she said pointing at the ticket. He didn’t understand the dark intensity of her gaze and her clenched fist, until he remembered that Botty Banworth lived there.

          “I’m not… I mean…”

          “You better not. If I hear you were in with that…”

          The words got lost as they broadcasted a call for flight AL357 to Sydney at Gate 8.

          “You’d better get that f…ing BLOG running during your little vacation or you can stay there and forget about your job,” she said before bumping into the border of the gate.

          Youssef moved on the side and looked at his ticket to Sydney, puzzled. When he passed security his ticket was to Boston. He recalled a message from Zara saying she would meet them in Australia soon. But how could she have managed to change his ticket without his knowing.

          Sure there was that moment when he had left his passport with his ticket on the table at the Starmoose when going back to the counter pick his second slice of cinnamon apple tart. But he was looking away only for a few seconds.

          “This is the last call for flight AL357 to Sydney. Youssef Ali is requested at Gate 8 before we close the gate.”

          Let’s just hope whomever made the change thought about transferring my luggage to the right plane,” he said as he started walking to Gate 8 with his bag.


          In reply to: Orbs of Madjourneys

          It was a pleasant 25 degrees as Zara stepped off the plane. The flat red land stretched as far as the eye could see, and although she prefered a more undulating terrain there was something awe inspiring about this vast landscape. It was quite a contrast from the past few hours spent inside mine tunnels.

          Bert, a weatherbeaten man of indeterminate advanced age, was there to meet her as arranged and led her to the car, a battered old four wheel drive.  Although clearly getting on in years, he was tall and spry and dressed in practical working clothes.

          “Welcome to Alice,” he said, taking her bag and putting in on the back seat.  “I expect you’ll be wanting to know a bit about the place.”

          “How long have you lived here?” Zara asked, as Bert settled into the creaky drivers seat and started the car.

          Bert gave her a funny look and replied “Longer than a ducks ass.”  Zara had never heard that expression before; she assumed it meant a long time but didn’t like to pursue the question.

          “All this land belongs to the Arrernte,” he said, pronouncing it Arrunda.  “The local aboriginals.  1862 when we got here. Well,” Bert turned to give Zara a lopsided smile, “Not me personally, I aint quite that old.”

          Zara chuckled politely as Bert continued, “It got kinda busy around these parts round 1887 with the gold.”

          “Oh, are there mines near here?”  Zara asked with some excitement.

          Bert gave her a sharp look. “Oh there’s mines alright. Abandoned now though, and dangerous. Dangerous places, old mines.  You’ll be more interested in the hiking trails than those old mines, some real nice hiking and rock gorges, and it’s a nice temperature this time of year.”

          Bert lapsed into silence for a few minutes, frowning.

          “If you’da been arriving back then, you’da been on a camel train, that’s how they did it back then. Camel trains.   They do camel tours for tourists nowadays.”

          “Do you get many tourists?”

          “Too dang many tourists if you ask me, Alice is full of them, and Ayers Rock’s crawling with ’em these days. We don’t get many out our way though.” Bert snorted, reminding Zara of Yasmin. “Our visitors like an off the beaten track kind of holiday, know what I mean?” Bert gave Zara another sideways lopsided smile.  “I reckon you’ll like it at The Flying Fish Inn.  Down to earth, know what I mean? Down to earth and off the wall.”  He laughed heartily at that and Zara wasn’t quite sure what to say, so she laughed too.

          “Sounds great.”

          “Family run, see, makes a difference.  No fancy airs and graces, no traffic ~ well, not much of anything really, just beautiful scenery and peace and quiet.  Aunt Idle thinks she’s in charge but me and old Mater do most of it, well Finly does most of it to be honest, and you dropped lucky coming now, the twins have just decorated the bedrooms. Real nice they look now, they fancied doing some dreamtime murials on the walls.  The twins are Idle’s neices, Clove and Corrie, turned out nice girls, despite everything.”

          “Despite ….?”

          “What? Oh, living in the outback. Youngsters usually leave and head for the cities.  Prune’s the youngest gal, she’s a real imp, that one, a real character.  And Devan calls by regular to see Mater, he works at the gas station.”

          “Are they all Idle’s neices and nephews? Where are their parents?”  Perhaps she shouldn’t have asked, Zara thought when she saw Bert’s face.

          “Long gone, mate, long since gone from round here.  We’ve taken good care of ’em.”  Bert turned off the road onto a dirt road.  “Only another five minutes now.  We’re outside the town a bit, but there aint much in town anyway. Population 79, our town. About right for a decent sized town if you ask me.”

          Bert rounded a bend in a eucalyptus grove and announced, “Here we are, then, the Flying Fish Inn.”  He parked the car and retrieved Zara’s bag from the back seat.  “Take a seat on the verandah and I’ll find Idle to show you to your room and get you a drink.  Oh, and don’t be put off by Idle’s appearance, she’s a sweetheart really.”

          Flying Fish Inn


          Aunt Idle was nowhere to be found though, having decided to go for a walk on impulse, quite forgetting the arrival of the first guest.    She saw Bert’s car approaching the hotel from her vantage point on a low hill, which reminded her she should be getting back.  It was a lovely evening and she didn’t rush.

          Aunt Idle walk


          Bert found Mater in the dining room gazing out of the window.  “Where the bloody hell is Idle? The guest’s outside on the verandah.”

          “She’s taken herself off for a walk, can you believe it?” sighed Mater.

          “Yep” Bert replied, “I can.  Which room’s she in? Can you show her to her room?”

          “Yes of course, Bert. Perhaps you’d see to getting a drink for her.”

          Mater dining room



            Chapter 1: The Search Begins


            Georges was sitting more or less comfortably in the command chair on the control deck of the Jorid, slowly drinking his tea. The temperature of the beverage seemed to be determined randomly since the interference patterns in the navigation array weren’t totally fixed when they removed those low quality tiles. Drinking cold or hot tea was not the worse of it, and it was even kind of a challenge to swallow it and not get burned by ice. The deck kept changing shape and colours, reconfiguring along with the quantum variations of the Boodenbaum field variation due to some leakage of information between dimensions. Salomé had preferred resting in her travelpod where the effects were not as strongly felt.

            “The worse is not as much seeing your face morph into a soul-insect and turn inside down, although those greenish hues usually make me feel nauseous, but feeling two probable realities where my organs grow and shrink at the same time is more than I can bear.”

            After a few freakish experiences, where his legs cross-merged with the chair, or a third eye grow behind his head, or that time when dissolved into a poof of greasy smoke, Georges got used to the fluid nature of reality during the trips. You just had to get along with it and not resist. He thought it gave some spice and colours to their journey across dimensions. He enjoyed the differences of perceptions generated by the fluctuations of the Boodenbaum field, as it allowed his tea to taste like chardonnay or bœuf bourguignon, and was glad when he discovered a taste that he had never experienced before.

            During the last few trips, he had attempted to talk with Jorid, but their voices were so garbled and transformed so quickly that he lost interest. He couldn’t make the difference with the other noises, like honking trucks passing by on a motorway, or the cry of agony of a mating Irdvark. He felt a pang of nostalgia as the memories of Duane, Murtuane and Phréal merged into the deck around him. He wondered if he could get physically lost during one of the trips as he started to feel his limbs move away from his body, one hairy foot brushing by his left ear while he drank a sip of tea with the mouth that had grown on his middle finger. Salomé had warned him about fractured perception and losing a piece of his mind… It seemed it hadn’t happened yet. But would he notice?

            Already he felt the deceleration he had come to notice when they neared their destination. The deck stabilized into a shape adapted to this quadrant of the dimensional universes. The large command screen displayed images of several ruins lost in the sand desert of Bluhm’Oxl.

            Georges looked at his hands, and touched his legs. His reflection  on the command screen looked back at him. Handsome as usual. He grinned. Salomé wouldn’t refrain from telling him if something was off anyway.

            Jorid: “I have woken up Salomé.”

            She won’t be long now. Georges ordered a hot meklah, one of her favorites drink that usually helped her refocus when getting out of her pod.

            A blip caught Georges’ attention.

            Jorid: “This is Tlal Klatl’Oxl, better know as Klatu. Your potential contact on Bluhm’Oxl and a Zathu. He’ll guide and protect you as you enter the conflict zone to look for Léonard.”


            In reply to: Orbs of Madjourneys

            “One of them’s arriving early!” Aunt Idle told Mater who had just come swanning into the kitchen with her long grey hair neatly plaited and tied with a red velvet bow.   Ridiculous being so particular about her hair at her age, Idle thought, whose own hair was an untidy and non too clean looking tangle of long dreadlocks with faded multicolour dyes growing out from her grey scalp.  “Bert’s going to pick her up at seven.”

            “You better get a move on then, the verandah needs sweeping and the dining room needs dusting. Are the bedrooms ready yet?” Mater replied, patting her hair and pulling her cardigan down neatly.

            “Plenty of time, no need to worry!” Idle said, looking worried.  “What on earth was that?”  Something bright caught her eye through the kitchen window.

            “Never mind that, make a start on the cleaning!” Mater said with a loud tut and an eye roll. Always getting distracted, that one, never finishes a job before she’s off sidetracking.  Mater gave her hair another satisfied pat, and put two slices of bread in the toaster.

            But Aunt Idle had gone outside to investigate.  A minute or two later she returned, saying “You’ll never guess what, there’s a tame red parrot sitting on the porch table. And it talks!”

            “So you’re planning to spend the day talking to a parrot, and leave me to do all the dusting, is that it?” Mater said, spreading honey on her toast.

            Pretty Girl at Flying Fish Inn


            In reply to: Orbs of Madjourneys

            The door opened and Youssef saw Natalie, still waiting for him. Indeed, he needed help. He decided to accept  sands_of_time contact request, hopping it was not another Thi Gang trick.

            Sands_of_time is trying to make contact : ✅ACCEPT ➡️DENY ❓

            A princess on horse back emerged from the sand. The veil on her hair floated in a wind that soon cleared all the dust from her garment and her mount, revealing a princess with a delicate face and some prominent attributes that didn’t leave Youssef indifferent. She was smiling at him, and her horse, who had six legs and looked a bit like a camel, snorted at the bear.

            “I love doing that, said the princess. At least I don’t get to spit sand afterward like when my sister’s grand-kids want to bury me in the sand at the beach…”

            It broke the charm. It reminded Youssef it was all a game. That princess was an avatar. Was it even a girl on the other side ? And how old ? Youssef, despite his stature, felt as vulnerable as when his mother left him for the afternoon with an old aunt in Sudan when he was five and she kept wanting to dress him with colourful girl outfits. He shivered and the bear growled at the camel-horse, reminding Youssef how hungry he was.

            sands_of_time?” he asked.

            “Yes. I like this AI game. Makes me feel like I’m twenty again. Not as fun as a mushroom trip though, but… with less secondary effects. Anyway, I saw you needed help with that girl. A ‘reel’ nuisance if you ask me, sticky like a sea cucumber.”

            “How do you know ? Did you plant bugs on my phone ? Are you with the Thi Gang ?” 

            The bear moved toward them and roared and the camel-horse did a strange sound. The princess appeased her mount with a touch of her hand.

            “Oh! Boy, calm down your heat. Nothing so prosaic. I have other means, she said with a grin. Call me Sweet Sophie, I’m a real life reporter. Was just laying down on my dream couch looking for clues about a Dr Patelonus, the man’s mixed up in some monkey trafficking business, when I saw that strange llama dressed like a tibetan monk, except it was a bit too mayonnaise for a tibetan monk. Anyway, he led me to you and told me to contact you through this Quirk Quest Game, suggesting you might have some intel for me about that monkey business of mine. So I put on my VR helmet, which actually reminds me of a time at the hair salon, and a gorgeous beehive… but anyway you wouldn’t understand. So I had to accept one of those quests and find you in the game. Which was a lot less easier than RV I can tell you. The only thing, I couldn’t interact with you unless you accepted contact. So here I am, ready for you to tell me about Dr Patelonus. But I can see that first we need to get you out of here.”

            Youssef had no idea about what she was talking about. VR; RV ? one and the same ? He decided not to tell her he knew nothing about monkeys or doctors until he was out of Natalie’s reach. If indeed sands_of_timecould help.

            “So what do I do ?” asked Youssef.

            “Let me first show you my real self. I’ve always wanted to try that. Wait a moment. I need to focus.”

            The princess avatar looked in the distance, her eyes lost beyond this world. Suddenly, Youssef felt a presence creeping into his mind. He heard a laugh and saw an old lady in yoga pants on a couch! He roared and almost let go of his phone again.

            The princess smiled.

            “Now, wouldn’t be fair if only I knew what you looked like in real life. Although you’re pretty close to your avatar… Don’t you seem a tad afraid of experimenting with new things. :yahoo_smug:

            She laughed again, and this time Youssef saw her “real” face superimposed on the princess avatar. It gave him goosebumps.

            “Now’s your opening, she said. The girl’s busy giving directions to someone else. Get out of the bathroom! Now!”

            Youssef had the strangest feeling that the voice had come at the same time from the phone speakers and from inside his head. His body acted on its own as if he was a puppet. He pushed the bathroom door open and rushed outside.


            In reply to: Orbs of Madjourneys

            The artificial lights of Berlin were starting to switch off in the horizon, leaving the night plunged in darkness minutes before the sunrise. It was a moment of peace that Xavier enjoyed, although it reminded him of how sleepless his night had been.

            The game had taken a side step, as he’d been pouring all his attention into his daytime job, and his personal project with Artificial Life AL. It was a long way from the little boy at school with dyslexia who was using cheeky jokes as a way to get by the snides. Since then, he’d known some of the unusual super-powers this condition gave him as well. Chiefly: abstract and out-of-the-box thinking, puzzle-solving genius, and an almost other-worldly ability at keeping track of the plot. All these skills were in fact of tremendous help at his work, which was blending traditional areas of technology along with massive amounts of loosely connected data.

            He yawned and went to brush his teeth. His usual meditation routine had also been disrupted by the activity of late, but he just couldn’t go to bed without a little time to cool off and calm down the agitation of his thoughts.

            Sitting on the meditation mat, his thoughts strayed off towards the preparation for the trip. Going to Australia would have seemed exciting a few years back, but the idea of packing a suitcase, and going through the long flight and the logistics involved got him more anxious than excited, despite the contagious enthusiasm of his friends. Since he’d settled in Berlin, after never settling for too long in one place (his job afforded him to work wherever whenever), he’d kind of stopped looking for the next adventure. He hadn’t even looked at flight options yet, and hoped that the building momentum would spur him into this adventure. For now, he needed the rest.

            The quirk quest assigned to his persona in the game was fun. Monkeys and Golden banana to look for, wise owls and sly foxes, the whimsical goofy nature of the quest seemed good for the place he was in.
            AL had been suggesting the players to insert the game elements into their realities, and sometimes its comments or instructions seemed to slip between layers of reality — this was an intriguing mystery to Xavier.
            He’d instructed AL to discreetly assist Youssef with his trouble — the Thi Gang seemed to be an ethical hacker developer company front for more serious business. Chatter on the net had tied it to a network of shell companies involved in some strange activities. A name had popped up, linked to mysterious recluse billionaire Botty Banworth, the owner of Youssef’s boss rival blog named Knoweth.

            He slipped into the bed, careful not to wake up Brytta, who was sleeping tightly. It was her day off, otherwise she would have been gone already to her shift. It would be good to connect in the morning, and enjoy some break from mind stuff. They had planned a visit to Kantonstrasse (the local Chinatown) for Chinese New Year, and he couldn’t wait for it.


            In reply to: Orbs of Madjourneys

            The team had to stop when a sandstorm hit them in the middle of the desert. They only had an hour drive left to reach the oasis where Lama Yoneze had been seen last and Miss Tartiflate insisted, like she always did, against the guides advice that they kept on going. She feared the last shaman would be lost in the storm, maybe croak stuffed with that damn dust. But when they lost the satellite dish and a jeep almost rolled down a sand dune, she finally listened to the guides. They had them park the cars close to each other, then checked the straps and urged everyone to stay in their cars until the storm was over.

            Youssef at first thought he was lucky. He managed to get into the same car as Tiff, the young intern he had discussed with the other day. But despite all their precautions, they couldn’t stop the dust to come in. It was everywhere and you had to kept your mouth and eyes shut if you didn’t want to grind your teeth with fine sand. So instead he enjoyed this unexpected respite from his trying to save THE BLOG from the evil Thi Gang, and from Miss Tartiflate’s continuous flow of criticism.

            The storm blew off the dish just after Xavier had sent him AL’s answer to the strange glyphs he had received on his phone. When Youssef read the message, he sighed. He had forgotten hope was an illusion. AL was in its infancy and was not a dead language expert. He gave them something fitting Youssef’s current location and the questions about famous alien dishes they asked him last week. It was just an old pot luck recipe from when the Silk Road was passing through the Gobi desert. He just hoped Xavier would have some luck until Youssef found a way to restore the connexion.


            In reply to: Orbs of Madjourneys

            Glimmer gave Zara and Yasmin a cheery :yahoo_wave:   , smirking to herself at their alarm at leaving her to her own devices.  She had no intention of inviting guests yet, but felt no need to reassure them.  Xavier would play along with her, she felt sure.

            Glimmer settled herself comfortably to peruse the new AIorium Emporium catalogue with the intention of ordering some new hats and accessories for the adventure.  She had always had a weakness for elaborate hats, but the truth was they were often rather heavy and cumbersome. That is until she found the AIorium hats which were made of a semi anti gravity material.  Not entirely anti gravity, obviously, or they would have floated right off her head, but just enough to make them feel weightless.  Once she’d discovered these wonderful hats and their unique properties, she had the idea to carry all her accessories, tools and devices upon her hat. This would save her the bother of carrying around bags of stuff.  She was no light weight herself, and it was quite enough to carry herself around, let alone bags of objects.

            Glimmer had heard a rumour (well not a rumour exactly, she had a direct line to ~ well not to spill the beans too soon, but she had some lines of information that the others didn’t know about yet) that the adventure was going to start at The Flying Fish Inn.   This was welcome news to Glimmer, who had met Idle many years before when they were both teenagers.  Yes, it’s hard to imagine these two as teenagers, but although they’d only met breifly on holiday, they’d hit it off immediately.  Despite not keeping in contact over the years, Glimmer remembered Idle fondly and felt sure that Idle felt similarly.

            Glimmer perused the catalogue for a suitable gift to take for her old friend.  The delightful little bottles of spirited spirit essences caught her eye, and recalling Idle’s enthusiasm for an exotic tipple, she ordered several bottles.  Perhaps Glimmer should have read carefully the description of the effects of the contents of each bottle but she did not. She immediately added the bottles to the new hat she’d ordered for the trip.

            Feeling pleased with her selection, she settled down for a snooze until her new hat arrived.


            Glimmers New Hat


            “What in the good name of our Lady, have these two been on?” Miss Bossy was at a loss for words while Ricardo was waiting sheepishly at her desk, as though he was expecting an outburst.
            “Look, Ricardo, I’m not against a little tweaking for newsworthiness, but this takes twisting reality to a whole new level!

            Ricardo had just dropped their last article.

            Local Hero at the Rescue – Stray Residents found after in a trip of a lifetime
            article by Hilda Astoria & Continuity Brown

            In a daring and heroic move, Nurse Trassie, a local hero and all-around fantastic human being, managed to track down and rescue three elderly women who had gone on an adventure of a lifetime. Sharon, Mavis, and Gloria (names may have been altered to preserve their anonymity) were residents of a UK nursing home who, in a moment of pure defiance and desire for adventure, decided to go off their meds and escape to the Nordics.

            The three women, who had been feeling cooped up and underappreciated in their nursing home, decided to take matters into their own hands and embark on a journey to see the world. They had heard of the beautiful landscapes and friendly people of the Nordics and their rejuvenating traditional cures and were determined to experience it for themselves.

            Their journey, however, was not without its challenges. They faced many obstacles, including harsh weather conditions and language barriers. But they were determined to press on, and their determination paid off when they were taken in by a kind-hearted local doctor who gave them asylum and helped them rehabilitate stray animals.

            Nurse Trassie, who had been on the lookout for the women since their disappearance, finally caught wind of their whereabouts and set out to rescue them. She tracked them down to the Nordics, where she found them living in a small facility in the woods, surrounded by a menagerie of stray animals they had taken in and were nursing back to health, including rare orangutans retired from local circus.

            Upon her arrival, Nurse Trassie was greeted with open arms by the women, who were overjoyed to see her. They told her of their adventures and showed her around their cabin, introducing her to the animals they had taken in and the progress they had made in rehabilitating them.

            Nurse Trassie, who is known for her compassion and dedication to her patients, was deeply touched by the women’s story and their love for the animals. She knew that they needed to be back in the care of professionals and that the animals needed to be properly cared for, so she made arrangements to bring them back home.

            The women were reluctant to leave their newfound home and the animals they had grown to love, but they knew that it was the right thing to do. They said their goodbyes and set off on the long journey back home with Nurse Trassie by their side.

            The three women returned to their nursing home filled with stories to share, and Nurse Trassie was hailed as a hero for her efforts in rescuing them. They were greeted with cheers and applause from the staff and other residents, who were thrilled to have them back safe and sound.

            Nurse Trassie, who is known for her sharp wit and sense of humor, commented on the situation with a tongue-in-cheek remark, “It’s not every day that you get to rescue three feisty elderlies from the wilds of the Nordics and bring them back to safety. I’m just glad I could be of service.”

            In conclusion, the three women’s adventure in the Nordics may have been unorthodox, but it was an adventure nonetheless. They were able to see the world and help some animals in the process. Their story serves as a reminder to never give up on your dreams, no matter your age or circumstances. And of course, a big shoutout to Nurse Trassie for her heroic actions and dedication to her patients.

            Bossy sighed. “It might do for now, but don’t let those two abuse the artificial intelligence to write article for them… I liked their old style better. This feels too… tidy. We’re not the A-News network, let’s not forget our purpose.”

            Ricardo nodded. Miss Bossy had been more mellow since the sales of the newspaper had exploded during the pandemic. With people at home, looking for conspiracies and all, the newspaper had known a resurgence of interest, and they even had to hire new staff. Giles Gibber, Glimmer Gambol (came heavily recommended by Blithe, the PI friend of Hilda’s), Samuel Sproink and Fionna Flibbergibbet.

            “And how is Sophie? That adventure into her past trauma was a bit much on her…” she mused.

            “She’s doing alright” answered Ricardo. “She’s learning to hone her remote-viewing skills to send our staff into new mysteries to solve. With a bit of AI assist…”

            “Oh, stop it already with your AI-this, AI-that! Hope there’ll still be room for some madness in all that neatly tidy purring of polite output.”

            “That’s why we’re here for, I reckon.” Ric’ smiled wryly.


              Wong Sang


              Wong Sang was born in China in 1884. In October 1916 he married Alice Stokes in Oxford.

              Alice was the granddaughter of William Stokes of Churchill, Oxfordshire and William was the brother of Thomas Stokes the wheelwright (who was my 3X great grandfather). In other words Alice was my second cousin, three times removed, on my fathers paternal side.

              Wong Sang was an interpreter, according to the baptism registers of his children and the Dreadnought Seamen’s Hospital admission registers in 1930.  The hospital register also notes that he was employed by the Blue Funnel Line, and that his address was 11, Limehouse Causeway, E 14. (London)

              “The Blue Funnel Line offered regular First-Class Passenger and Cargo Services From the UK to South Africa, Malaya, China, Japan, Australia, Java, and America.  Blue Funnel Line was Owned and Operated by Alfred Holt & Co., Liverpool.
              The Blue Funnel Line, so-called because its ships have a blue funnel with a black top, is more appropriately known as the Ocean Steamship Company.”


              Wong Sang and Alice’s daughter, Frances Eileen Sang, was born on the 14th July, 1916 and baptised in 1920 at St Stephen in Poplar, Tower Hamlets, London.  The birth date is noted in the 1920 baptism register and would predate their marriage by a few months, although on the death register in 1921 her age at death is four years old and her year of birth is recorded as 1917.

              Charles Ronald Sang was baptised on the same day in May 1920, but his birth is recorded as April of that year.  The family were living on Morant Street, Poplar.

              James William Sang’s birth is recorded on the 1939 census and on the death register in 2000 as being the 8th March 1913.  This definitely would predate the 1916 marriage in Oxford.

              William Norman Sang was born on the 17th October 1922 in Poplar.

              Alice and the three sons were living at 11, Limehouse Causeway on the 1939 census, the same address that Wong Sang was living at when he was admitted to Dreadnought Seamen’s Hospital on the 15th January 1930. Wong Sang died in the hospital on the 8th March of that year at the age of 46.

              Alice married John Patterson in 1933 in Stepney. John was living with Alice and her three sons on Limehouse Causeway on the 1939 census and his occupation was chef.

              Via Old London Photographs:

              “Limehouse Causeway is a street in east London that was the home to the original Chinatown of London. A combination of bomb damage during the Second World War and later redevelopment means that almost nothing is left of the original buildings of the street.”

              Limehouse Causeway in 1925:

              Limehouse Causeway


              From The Story of Limehouse’s Lost Chinatown, poplarlondon website:

              “Limehouse was London’s first Chinatown, home to a tightly-knit community who were demonised in popular culture and eventually erased from the cityscape.

              As recounted in the BBC’s ‘Our Greatest Generation’ series, Connie was born to a Chinese father and an English mother in early 1920s Limehouse, where she used to play in the street with other British and British-Chinese children before running inside for teatime at one of their houses. 

              Limehouse was London’s first Chinatown between the 1880s and the 1960s, before the current Chinatown off Shaftesbury Avenue was established in the 1970s by an influx of immigrants from Hong Kong. 

              Connie’s memories of London’s first Chinatown as an “urban village” paint a very different picture to the seedy area portrayed in early twentieth century novels. 

              The pyramid in St Anne’s church marked the entrance to the opium den of Dr Fu Manchu, a criminal mastermind who threatened Western society by plotting world domination in a series of novels by Sax Rohmer. 

              Thomas Burke’s Limehouse Nights cemented stereotypes about prostitution, gambling and violence within the Chinese community, and whipped up anxiety about sexual relationships between Chinese men and white women. 

              Though neither novelist was familiar with the Chinese community, their depictions made Limehouse one of the most notorious areas of London. 

              Travel agent Thomas Cook even organised tours of the area for daring visitors, despite the rector of Limehouse warning that “those who look for the Limehouse of Mr Thomas Burke simply will not find it.”

              All that remains is a handful of Chinese street names, such as Ming Street, Pekin Street, and Canton Street — but what was Limehouse’s chinatown really like, and why did it get swept away?

              Chinese migration to Limehouse 

              Chinese sailors discharged from East India Company ships settled in the docklands from as early as the 1780s.

              By the late nineteenth century, men from Shanghai had settled around Pennyfields Lane, while a Cantonese community lived on Limehouse Causeway. 

              Chinese sailors were often paid less and discriminated against by dock hirers, and so began to diversify their incomes by setting up hand laundry services and restaurants. 

              Old photographs show shopfronts emblazoned with Chinese characters with horse-drawn carts idling outside or Chinese men in suits and hats standing proudly in the doorways. 

              In oral histories collected by Yat Ming Loo, Connie’s husband Leslie doesn’t recall seeing any Chinese women as a child, since male Chinese sailors settled in London alone and married working-class English women. 

              In the 1920s, newspapers fear-mongered about interracial marriages, crime and gambling, and described chinatown as an East End “colony.” 

              Ironically, Chinese opium-smoking was also demonised in the press, despite Britain waging war against China in the mid-nineteenth century for suppressing the opium trade to alleviate addiction amongst its people. 

              The number of Chinese people who settled in Limehouse was also greatly exaggerated, and in reality only totalled around 300. 

              The real Chinatown 

              Although the press sought to characterise Limehouse as a monolithic Chinese community in the East End, Connie remembers seeing people of all nationalities in the shops and community spaces in Limehouse.

              She doesn’t remember feeling discriminated against by other locals, though Connie does recall having her face measured and IQ tested by a member of the British Eugenics Society who was conducting research in the area. 

              Some of Connie’s happiest childhood memories were from her time at Chung-Hua Club, where she learned about Chinese culture and language.

              Why did Chinatown disappear? 

              The caricature of Limehouse’s Chinatown as a den of vice hastened its erasure. 

              Police raids and deportations fuelled by the alarmist media coverage threatened the Chinese population of Limehouse, and slum clearance schemes to redevelop low-income areas dispersed Chinese residents in the 1930s. 

              The Defence of the Realm Act imposed at the beginning of the First World War criminalised opium use, gave the authorities increased powers to deport Chinese people and restricted their ability to work on British ships.

              Dwindling maritime trade during World War II further stripped Chinese sailors of opportunities for employment, and any remnants of Chinatown were destroyed during the Blitz or erased by postwar development schemes.”


              Wong Sang 1884-1930

              The year 1918 was a troublesome one for Wong Sang, an interpreter and shipping agent for Blue Funnel Line.  The Sang family were living at 156, Chrisp Street.

              Chrisp Street, Poplar, in 1913 via Old London Photographs:

              Chrisp Street


              In February Wong Sang was discharged from a false accusation after defending his home from potential robbers.

              East End News and London Shipping Chronicle – Friday 15 February 1918:

              1918 Wong Sang


              In August of that year he was involved in an incident that left him unconscious.

              Faringdon Advertiser and Vale of the White Horse Gazette – Saturday 31 August 1918:

              1918 Wong Sang 2


              Wong Sang is mentioned in an 1922 article about “Oriental London”.

              London and China Express – Thursday 09 February 1922:

              1922 Wong Sang

              A photograph of the Chee Kong Tong Chinese Freemason Society mentioned in the above article, via Old London Photographs:

              Chee Kong Tong


              Wong Sang was recommended by the London Metropolitan Police in 1928 to assist in a case in Wellingborough, Northampton.

              Difficulty of Getting an Interpreter: Northampton Mercury – Friday 16 March 1928:

              1928 Wong Sang

              1928 Wong Sang 2

              The difficulty was that “this man speaks the Cantonese language only…the Northeners and the Southerners in China have differing languages and the interpreter seemed to speak one that was in between these two.”


              In 1917, Alice Wong Sang was a witness at her sister Harriet Stokes marriage to James William Watts in Southwark, London.  Their father James Stokes occupation on the marriage register is foreman surveyor, but on the census he was a council roadman or labourer. (I initially rejected this as the correct marriage for Harriet because of the discrepancy with the occupations. Alice Wong Sang as a witness confirmed that it was indeed the correct one.)

              1917 Alice Wong Sang



              James William Sang 1913-2000 was a clock fitter and watch assembler (on the 1939 census). He married Ivy Laura Fenton in 1963 in Sidcup, Kent. James died in Southwark in 2000.

              Charles Ronald Sang 1920-1974  was a draughtsman (1939 census). He married Eileen Burgess in 1947 in Marylebone.  Charles and Eileen had two sons:  Keith born in 1951 and Roger born in 1952.  He died in 1974 in Hertfordshire.

              William Norman Sang 1922-2000 was a clerk and telephone operator (1939 census).  William enlisted in the Royal Artillery in 1942. He married Lily Mullins in 1949 in Bethnal Green, and they had three daughters: Marion born in 1950, Christine in 1953, and Frances in 1959.  He died in Redbridge in 2000.


              I then found another two births registered in Poplar by Alice Sang, both daughters.  Doris Winifred Sang was born in 1925, and Patricia Margaret Sang was born in 1933 ~ three years after Wong Sang’s death.  Neither of the these daughters were on the 1939 census with Alice, John Patterson and the three sons.  Margaret had presumably been evacuated because of the war to a family in Taunton, Somerset. Doris would have been fourteen and I have been unable to find her in 1939 (possibly because she died in 2017 and has not had the redaction removed  yet on the 1939 census as only deceased people are viewable).

              Doris Winifred Sang 1925-2017 was a nursing sister. She didn’t marry, and spent a year in USA between 1954 and 1955. She stayed in London, and died at the age of ninety two in 2017.

              Patricia Margaret Sang 1933-1998 was also a nurse. She married Patrick L Nicely in Stepney in 1957.  Patricia and Patrick had five children in London: Sharon born 1959, Donald in 1960, Malcolm was born and died in 1966, Alison was born in 1969 and David in 1971.


              I was unable to find a birth registered for Alice’s first son, James William Sang (as he appeared on the 1939 census).  I found Alice Stokes on the 1911 census as a 17 year old live in servant at a tobacconist on Pekin Street, Limehouse, living with Mr Sui Fong from Hong Kong and his wife Sarah Sui Fong from Berlin.  I looked for a birth registered for James William Fong instead of Sang, and found it ~ mothers maiden name Stokes, and his date of birth matched the 1939 census: 8th March, 1913.

              On the 1921 census, Wong Sang is not listed as living with them but it is mentioned that Mr Wong Sang was the person returning the census.  Also living with Alice and her sons James and Charles in 1921 are two visitors:  (Florence) May Stokes, 17 years old, born in Woodstock, and Charles Stokes, aged 14, also born in Woodstock. May and Charles were Alice’s sister and brother.


              I found Sharon Nicely on social media and she kindly shared photos of Wong Sang and Alice Stokes:

              Wong Sang


              Alice Stokes


                The Tetbury Riots


                While researching the Tetbury riots  (I had found some Browning names in the newspaper archives in association with the uprisings) I came across an article called Elizabeth Parker, the Swing Riots, and the Tetbury parish clerk” by Jill Evans.

                I noted the name of the parish clerk, Daniel Cole, because I know someone else of that name. The incident in the article was 1830.

                I found the 1826 marriage in the Tetbury parish registers (where Daniel was the parish clerk) of my 4x great grandmothers sister Hesther Lock. One of the witnesses was her brother Charles, and the other was Daniel Cole, the parish clerk.

                Marriage of Lewin Chandler and Hesther Lock in 1826:

                Daniel Cole witness


                from the article:

                “The Swing Riots were disturbances which took place in 1830 and 1831, mostly in the southern counties of England. Agricultural labourers, who were already suffering due to low wages and a lack of work after several years of bad harvests, rose up when their employers introduced threshing machines into their workplaces. The riots got their name from the threatening letters which were sent to farmers and other employers, which were signed “Captain Swing.”

                The riots spread into Gloucestershire in November 1830, with the Tetbury area seeing the worst of the disturbances. Amongst the many people arrested afterwards was one woman, Elizabeth Parker. She has sometimes been cited as one of only two females who were transported for taking part in the Swing Riots. In fact, she was sentenced to be transported for this crime, but never sailed, as she was pardoned a few months after being convicted. However, less than a year after being released from Gloucester Gaol, she was back, awaiting trial for another offence. The circumstances in both of the cases she was tried for reveal an intriguing relationship with one Daniel Cole, parish clerk and assistant poor law officer in Tetbury….

                ….Elizabeth Parker was committed to Gloucester Gaol on 4 December 1830. In the Gaol Registers, she was described as being 23 and a “labourer”. She was in fact a prostitute, and she was unusual for the time in that she could read and write. She was charged on the oaths of Daniel Cole and others with having been among a mob which destroyed a threshing machine belonging to Jacob Hayward, at his farm in Beverstone, on 26 November.

                …..Elizabeth Parker was granted royal clemency in July 1831 and was released from prison. She returned to Tetbury and presumably continued in her usual occupation, but on 27 March 1832, she was committed to Gloucester Gaol again. This time, she was charged with stealing 2 five pound notes, 5 sovereigns and 5 half sovereigns, from the person of Daniel Cole.

                Elizabeth was tried at the Lent Assizes which began on 28 March, 1832. The details of her trial were reported in the Morning Post. Daniel Cole was in the “Boat Inn” (meaning the Boot Inn, I think) in Tetbury, when Elizabeth Parker came in. Cole “accompanied her down the yard”, where he stayed with her for about half an hour. The next morning, he realised that all his money was gone. One of his five pound notes was identified by him in a shop, where Parker had bought some items.

                Under cross-examination, Cole said he was the assistant overseer of the poor and collector of public taxes of the parish of Tetbury. He was married with one child. He went in to the inn at about 9 pm, and stayed about 2 hours, drinking in the parlour, with the landlord, Elizabeth Parker, and two others. He was not drunk, but he was “rather fresh.” He gave the prisoner no money. He saw Elizabeth Parker next morning at the Prince and Princess public house. He didn’t drink with her or give her any money. He did give her a shilling after she was committed. He never said that he would not have prosecuted her “if it was not for her own tongue”. (Presumably meaning he couldn’t trust her to keep her mouth shut.)”

                Contemporary illustration of the Swing riots:

                Swing Riots


                Captain Swing was the imaginary leader agricultural labourers who set fire to barns and haystacks in the southern and eastern counties of England from 1830. Although the riots were ruthlessly put down (19 hanged, 644 imprisoned and 481 transported), the rural agitation led the new Whig government to establish a Royal Commission on the Poor Laws and its report provided the basis for the 1834 New Poor Law enacted after the Great Reform Bills of 1833.

                An original portrait of Captain Swing hand coloured lithograph circa 1830:

                Captain Swing


                  Albert Parker Edwards


                  Albert Parker Edwards


                  Albert Parker Edwards, my great grandfather, was born in Aston, Warwickshire in 1876.  On the 1881 census he was living with his parents Enoch and Amelia in Bournebrook, Northfield, Worcestershire.  Enoch was a button tool maker at the time of the census.

                  In 1890 Albert was indentured in an apprenticeship as a pawnbroker in Tipton, Staffordshire.

                  1890 indenture


                  On the 1891 census Albert was a lodger in Tipton at the home of Phoebe Levy, pawnbroker, and Alberts occupation was an apprentice.

                  Albert married Annie Elizabeth Stokes in 1898 in Evesham, and their first son, my grandfather Albert Garnet Edwards (1898-1950), was born six months later in Crabbs Cross.  On the 1901 census, Annie was in hospital as a patient and Albert was living at Crabbs Cross with a boarder, his brother Garnet Edwards.  Their two year old son Albert Garnet was staying with his uncle Ralph, Albert Parkers brother, also in Crabbs Cross.

                  Albert and Annie kept the Cricketers Arms hotel on Beoley Road in Redditch until around 1920. They had a further four children while living there: Doris May Edwards (1902-1974),  Ralph Clifford Edwards (1903-1988),  Ena Flora Edwards (1908-1983) and Osmond Edwards (1910-2000).


                  In 1906 Albert was assaulted during an incident in the Cricketers Arms.

                  Bromsgrove & Droitwich Messenger – Saturday 18 August 1906:

                  1906 incident

                  1906 assault


                  In 1910 a gold medal was given to Albert Parker Edwards by Mr. Banks, a policeman, in Redditch for saving the life of his two children from drowning in a brook on the Proctor farm which adjoined The Cricketers Arms.  The story my father heard was that policeman Banks could not persuade the town of Redditch to come up with an award for Albert Parker Edwards so policeman Banks did it himself.  William Banks, police constable, was living on Beoley Road on the 1911 census. His son Thomas was aged 5 and his daughter Frances was 8.  It seems that when the father retired from the police he moved to Worcester. Thomas went into the hotel business and in 1939 was the manager of the Abbey hotel in Kenilworth. Frances married Edward Pardoe and was living along Redditch Road, Alvechurch in 1939.

                  My grandmother Peggy had the gold medal put on a gold chain for me in the 1970s.  When I left England in the 1980s, I gave it back to her for safekeeping. When she died, the medal on the chain ended up in my fathers possession, who claims to have no knowledge that it was once given to me!

                  The medal:

                  1910 medal

                  Albert Parker Edwards wearing the medal:

                  APE wearing medal


                  In 1921 Albert was at the The Royal Exchange hotel in Droitwich:

                  Royal Exchange


                  Between 1922 and 1927 Albert kept the Bear Hotel in Evesham:

                  APE Bear

                  The Bear


                  Then Albert and Annie moved to the Red Lion at Astwood Bank:

                  Red Lion


                  Albert in the garden behind the Red Lion:

                  APE Red Lion


                  They stayed at the Red Lion until Albert Parker Edwards died on the 11th of February, 1930 aged 53.

                  APE probate

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